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On proof of wrongdoing, GM may have to halt production

Last updated on: July 27, 2013 11:14 IST

The Centre could direct General Motors to halt production completely in India in case there is any evidence of wanton wrongdoing on part of the company, in terms of violating emission norms and technical specifications and endangering the safety of Chevrolet Tavera consumers.

On Wednesday, in one of the largest vehicle recalls in the country, General Motors India announced it was recalling 1,14,000 units of the Chevrolet Tavera, manufactured between 2005 and 2013.

The US-based auto maker told the government an internal probe had revealed the company had violated testing norms and to meet specified emission targets, its staff had re-fitted already-approved engines in new Tavera models sent for inspection. The company also said executives had tinkered with the weight of the BS-III and BS-IV variants sent for testing, to meet emission standards.

A senior government official told Business Standard, “We have set up a committee to ascertain if there was human wrongdoing or systemic lapses in the production process that led to non-compliance with emission standards and technical specifications during the production of Chevrolet Tavera. It will also examine if there was mala fide involvement of testing agencies in the case. If there is evidence of institutional wrongdoing, the government could ask GM to stop production under the Motor Vehicles Act.”

The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways would decide on the course of action on receiving a report within a month. On Thursday, Vijay Chibber, secretary, Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, had told media the recall was not a case of malfunctioning (for the Tavera), but a basic problem with the engine. GM had accepted it had defaulted on the vehicle, he added.

A senior executive at Sonalika Group, which supplied engines to GM India for the Tavera, said there was a problem with the emission of the vehicles, not with the engines.

“We checked with General Motors to know if there was an engine problem and it has confirmed the engine is fine. It is their specifications (about the vehicle) which might be at fault here. We are still supplying the same engine to them. Nobody has registered a complaint with us about our engine,” he said.

The Department of Heavy Industry, along with the roads ministry, has formed a committee headed by Nitin Gokarn, chief executive officer, National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project, to probe the matter.

GM had stopped production and sale of the Tavera BS-III (2.5-litre engine) on June 4 and the Tavera BS-IV (two-litre engine) on July 2. The firm said since then, it had identified a solution to the issues and had carried out the required engineering validation and was awaiting regulatory approvals.  It had clarified the issues were not safety related.

“After the proposed solution receives approval from authorities, General Motors will resume Tavera production and sale and move forward with its recall and customer notification plan for both the BS-III and BS-IV models,” the company said in a statement.

Sharmistha Mukherjee & Swaraj Baggonkar in New Delhi/Mumbai